Archive for the ‘crab pots!’ Category

Notes on Learning and Disappointment

September 5, 2009

It was quiet in the boat last night on the way home. We’d gone out to pick up the pots and found two of the four missing….minds fumbling through the possibilities of sea grass entanglement at low water, strong tidal pull out in Padilla Bay dragging them out over 100 feet of line, or a middle of the night, early morning pirate taking spoils…..what I like about foraging for my own food is the wonder of nature, learning what crab are most attracted to as possible food – raw chicken, horse clams, salmon carcasses, these are specials on their menu. Becoming comfortable with what comes up the line….no legal crabs, but a wild and woolly starfish the size of a throw pillow, day-glo orange, the delicate beauty of a molting crab shell, sending the little ones back to grow, grow, grow!  And looking at depth charts to see where they like to congregate most and developing the poorly researched theory about crab family neighborhoods.

It is a different thing entirely to find your pot gone and suspect that someone has pirated it. I don’t want to think about it. Sometimes it seems likely that someone has pulled a pot and taken a couple….the latch isn’t quite right, the pot is 50 yards off mark, just enough space for a pull and a drop back down. That seems ok to me, share with those you know….those you don’t…this is ultimately food, though I love the way to it, the ride, the cold, the wet, the wild claws grasping my sleeve,  as much or more.

As we drifted back and forth out from Hat Island, scanning for a stray buoy with Bruce’s signature knot on top, the mind does drift too, to the worst case scenario.  At one point a bay boat came speeding up, one salty dog (too much beer?) shouted out “Hey, these are our pots all along this here line!”  Well, we can look can’t we? At home, hungry, disappointed, even with garden vegetables packing the fridge we needed some other kind of solace……a juicy, rare bacon cheeseburger with fries and a beer. So we hopped down to the local pub just before the kitchen closed to sooth our wounded souls.

Our days of leaving pots over night are done. We will plan to put them out in the morning and pick them up later in the day…..or drop and fish and pick up in a few hours…..we know how fortunate we are to be out there in the world, having resources others do not, we can celebrate the mystery of the missing pots. We’ll have our toasted whole grain bread with fresh cheese, home-grown tomatoes and basil for dinner tonight.


Late in the Day, Full Moon this Evening

September 4, 2009

Here are some photos of this afternoons activities. The area where our pots are placed is Hat Island, just to the east of Guemes Island, part of the San Juan Islands. The crab pot has both Dungeness, big, and Rock, smaller with dark red color.



Here is our Captain at the helm. Monk barks at each crab as it comes aboard, we think it is a greeting.



We found 5 dungeness and 3 rock crab tonight. The cooker is on and we will have fresh crab for Phyllis, Bruces mom, Barbara, who roasts our coffee, and my sister, who has been a vegetarian for many years and is now eating a bit of crab and salmon for protein and omega 3s.

We put in a handful of rock salt or sea salt for every gallon of water in the pot. Cook for 12 minutes and remove to iced down water. Clean as soon as you can handle the shells. Some like it still warm. Some prefer it cold. If you would like a simple sauce for the crab I think mayonnaise with a bit of tomato flavor and just a touch of horse radish, used sparingly is nice.

Another Pot

August 18, 2009


A Primer on our Crab

August 18, 2009

So, I’ve assumed you knew what crab I’ve been catching and eating. This is Dungeness country. We also have Rock crab in these waters but I usually send these back. They are not as flavorful and their shells are very hard. They will be slightly smaller in size, reddish in color, and have a pair of huge foreclaws, like they spend way too much time on their upper body at the gym.

Dungeness live in the Pacific waters off of the coast from California to Alaska. We eat the males only, with a hard shell, and they must be at least 6.25 inches across the back, those little notches at the sides are where you measure. I’m talking state of Washington here, and in fact, a very particular region of Puget Sound. Each area has slightly different rules, and open dates. You must consult your state/local fish and game department.

Back to Dungeness……the meat is sweet and buttery. It will work with so many other flavors….garlic/ginger…..lemon……capers/dill……..what ever you use, a light touch. If to say we were cooking French we’d go cuisine nuvelle as opposed to a heavy cream sauce……thank you Jacques Pepin!  Not that I have anything against heavy cream. Just that we want the crab to shine.

Details on the Crab BLT

August 18, 2009

I worried for a moment about the excess of crab and bacon in the same sandwich. Yet seafood and a solid smokey flavor do mix wonderfully. I used about 8 crab leg sections for the sandwich but could use about 1/2 cup of pieces, and 2 pieces of thick cut bacon, firmly cooked yet not crispy. Please do not use a maple flavor bacon. This will ruin the flavor mix. A good smokey bacon.

I added a few drops of lemon juice to the mayonnaise that was spread on the top piece of toast that would face the crab. I am thinking more would be better! And maybe even a few drops of chipotle…….or use lime juice instead of both. You try it and let me know…..I will report back.

I’m wondering now about thinly! sliced red onion. Too much? I’d put it between the tomato and bacon….by the way, if you can’t see in the photo. it begins with toast, mayonnaise, a romaine leaf, thin sliced tomato, from our garden, yippee, the bacon, each cut in half for four pieces to fit across, then the crab, then the top toast with amended mayo. The basil leaves are for garnish, and just to have that incredible perfume while we eat.

I asked my husband if he would order this in a restaurant and he said probably not. He is not a crab eater away from home.  We both grew up eating crab, seafood was cheap and plentiful, and have both spent years avoiding it out of boredom…..let those who rarely get to eat it have all they want. But since we got our little boat last year and can get out to where the food is…..well, we are crazy for these critters. And sharing.

On the same trip for this batch of crab we also caught a 5 lb. humpy. These are salmon. Some folks don’t think they are very good to eat. They are very good to eat. You just need to clean and eat them right away because they do deteriorate quickly. I think one should clean them right out of the water and get them on ice. Then prepare and eat as soon as you get home……this precludes catching more than you can eat……freezing is a sad thing for a humpy.

So, start the BBQ, charcoal and a few apple prunings……lay the headed, gutted  fish out. Cut along the back bone down, for two fillets, bones in. Leave the skin.

Brush with a mixture of salted butter and lemon juice. Lay the fillets flesh side down on the hot grill. Don’t touch it!. Let it sizzle for 5-6 minutes, then the flesh caramelizes, edges get crispy, and the whole thing will turn over easily, you’ve heard of the Maillard effect?  Allow it to cook for no more than 5 more minutes. This depends on how thick the fish is and a 5 lb. humpy fillet is about half an inch at the thickest part. Remember that most proteins continue cooking off the fire and so you can take it off slightly undercooked, blah, blah, blah. I like slightly raw fish as long as I know where it came from and who cooked it.

I have a habit of laying  the garlic on fish……really though, the butter, lemon, and hint of smoke, charcoal and apple wood are so great.

Green beans out of the garden with some salt and pepper. If you have baby roasted potatoes lying around that would be good too. Put the herbs on the potatoes….leave the fish alone.

The Crab BLT

August 18, 2009


Catch of the Day, South Of Lopez Island

August 13, 2009

Catch of the Day Just Off South Lopez

We had 10 in the pot, 7 keepers. Notice the horse clams used as bait? This was a first for me. Usually use chicken backs and the remains from cleaned and filleted salmon.

There is absolutely nothing like catching your own food, especially a critter so intense, so lively, as a crab. They do look right at you…..I don’t know what he sees, but he tracks. This type of experience and all the thoughtfulness that goes with it is why I love food so much……praise for the glorious crab! Thanks for your life……I understand how difficult it is for some folks to take critters for food like this……I feel more right myself eating this food than something wrapped in plastic from a store. There is an emotional aspect that can be felt deeply. Besides, who says carrots don’t scream bloody murder when we pull them out of the ground by their hair?

Something else special about this catch is who I share it with. We have a friend who helps out in the garden, a granny who can pack away more crab than anyone I have ever seen. Another friend who needs some food support so why not crab?

What’s for dinner?

How about crab tacos? Soft warm white corn tortillas, the small ones, and some shredded cabbage with rice wine vinegar and chipotle. Heat the crab gently with just a bit of garlic. Ok, mayonnaise if you must. But not too much.

Or, BLTs with fresh crab on top? Toast the bread really well. And this time use all the mayo you can handle.

I do love a good crab cake. An egg yolk, a couple of pinches of bread crumbs, one green onion minced, 1/4 of a sweet red bell pepper, minced, 2 dashes of lemon juice. Dill, yes, Cayenne, ok, sea salt. One crab, shelled, meat broken up. Dry the crab, no extra moisture! You are on the way to perfection. You can saute these in butter or, bake them at 425′ for 12 minutes on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Turn them over at 6 minutes, check after 4 more. Golden brown.  Makes 4 small or 16 mini size. Serve with more citrus flavors or a very garlicky aoli.

Part Three of Our Story

Every fold of fabric, each bit of sun reflected off glass and sterling, each step in preparing the sauces, reveling in the crispness of green beans blanched in boiling, salted water for exactly three minutes and twenty  seconds, the toasts and tears accompanied by champagne and the room temperature St. Andre, the wafting of sweet sesame oil and seared fish flesh, a peculiar quiet moment as each course was laid down in front of each guest, all, all of it, leading to this moment, deep in the garden, our senses heightened by darkness, sharpened by hunger, kindled in joy that our work is now done and we are not expected back in the kitchen any time soon.

This wasn’t my idea. I’m not sure what to expect except for something wondrous to be revealed when your basket is opened. When you came to work for me weeks ago I knew we shared this passion for simple flavors matched in wild ways as I watched you transform salad with a spring palate of shrimp, avocado, mango, curry and heirloom bachelor buttons.  Several times since then our eyes have met variously; across a freshly filleted king salmon, you began slicing thin slivers as I hunted down wasabe and fish roe; or, you peeled and sliced ripe Comice pear when the aged Asiago cheese arrived in perfect condition.  Once you came and stood next to me as I cooked sugar down in my copper pot for crème caramel, the white mound mysteriously collapsing into liquid at two hundred and thirty degrees. Not speaking, your eyes never moved from the syrup as it turned from pale gold to hazelnut, then pure auburn as I took it off the fire. We both smiled as you returned to your fillets.

Yes, I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t confused the thrill of thinking, talking, cooking, breathing food with a man for sexual attraction in years. But there were times, in the beginning of my career, when the heat of the kitchen, the synchronized, tango-like work on the line, watching deft fingers slice, fan and arrange, being hand fed some small bit of magic, a freshly made garlic and parmesan gnocchi wrapped in a basil leaf, all the while being intently watched, by dark unblinking eyes, for my reaction, could and did leave me a soft puddle of sensory reception overload, ready for entering.

One summer, working the appetizer line, designing plates so charged, if one lingered, enjoying the color, texture, arrangement, it couldn’t be missed; the undulation and fold of thin sliced flesh for carpaccio, the moist triangle of caviar atop thin slivers of lox, flecked with coarse grated egg, the monochromation of strawberry and rhubarb sauces napping a soft mound of cour la creme.